Healing hands – the restorative role of maxillofacial prosthetists Image

Healing hands – the restorative role of maxillofacial prosthetists

Posted: 11/12/2015

Every day ordinary people become so fixated on an aspect of their facial appearance, so troubled by it, that they put themselves forward for elective surgery, that is to say surgery which is not medically indicated. In our modern society, the focus on body image and physical perfection is at an all-time high, so it is no wonder that there has been a rise in facial cosmetic surgery, including cosmetic dentistry. However, as the general public embarks on a quest for the perfect face or the perfect smile, in reality what damage may we be doing and how can it potentially be repaired? 

Statistics show that the demand for cosmetic dental treatment has almost doubled in just a few short years. With the rise in this kind of dentistry comes an increase in a range of associated issues. Many providers will see this rapid expansion as an opportunity to cash in and will cut corners to make a ‘quick buck’. Dentistry is no longer just a case of filling and taking out teeth. Treatments can be used to straighten, lighten, reshape and repair teeth and include veneers, crowns, bridges, tooth-coloured fillings, implants and tooth whitening. 

Maxillofacial prosthetics is a clinical healthcare science that deals with the specialist rehabilitation of patients requiring treatment after a traumatic injury, cancer surgery or defects from birth causing malformation. Maxillofacial prosthetists manage the replacement and restoration of lost or missing structures and functions in the head and neck region with artificial substitutes. A silicone eyeball can be fabricated to match the size, colour and appearance of the opposite eye as closely as possible. Eyelashes and eyebrows can be added to enhance the natural appearance. Nasal and ear prostheses are also routinely produced. 

Maxillofacial prosthetics can also play a role within a multidisciplinary team, often including cosmetic surgeons, oral and maxillofacial surgeons and ENT surgeons, to repair or revise damage done from unsuccessful or even negligent cosmetic facial or dental treatment. It is an area of rehabilitation medicine, and to some degree dentistry, that the public may not be aware of. Maxillofacial prosthetists are likely to be based at an NHS hospital. Their working day may involve meeting a recovering patient who had to have his or her nose removed due to nasal cancer. It will be the maxillofacial prosthetists’ job to restore the patient's nose and face shape. They will explain to the patient what needs to be done to construct an artificial nose and this may well involve taking an impression of the face. Prosthetists may also be called upon by the accident and emergency team to construct special splints to be used in theatre for car accident victims. This is a fascinating area of healthcare and must be hugely rewarding.

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